With the first of three elections over on June 13th, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party were given a majority mandate. The Liberals as the incumbent party were chased in the election by Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservatives on the right and Andrea Horwath and the New Democratic Party on the left. In the newly formed house, the Liberals garnished 58 seats, while the PC lost 10, leaving them with 28 seats and the NDP maintained their 21 seats.
Record voter turnout shows that Ontario voters rejected Tim Hudak’s calls for austerity and downsized government, embracing instead the activist message of Wynne’s Liberal Party. As Wynne suggested after her victory “One of the really stark differences between Tim Hudak and me, I think was an understanding of what government is…Government exists, in my opinion to help people, to be active in their lives, and to partner with communities and partner with businesses to create an environment where business can thrive.”
Wynne entered provincial politics in the 1990s after serving as a school board trustee to stop cuts instituted by Mike Harris in his “Common Sense” revolution. She later held a variety of portfolios including education, municipal affairs, aboriginal affairs and transportation under Premier Dalton McGuinty. This experience has helped her hone her vision of good governance. Running against Hudak’s reinterpretation of Harris’s message in this election, Wynne ran on a platform advocating spending for infrastructure, education and transit. Governance for Wynne is about making the world a better place, as she stated after her win, “I have spent my adult life fighting for the public good, fighting to make life a little bit easier, a bit more fulfilling, better for people.”
Wynne’s majority win is important not only because she is the first woman to be elected premier of Ontario but also because she is the first out LGBT leader to be elected in Canada and the Commonwealth. This is an important symbol to women in our society, it shows a radical change in how we understand governance. No longer is this defined solely by men, this election saw a record number of women entering the election and gaining at the polls with 38 female MPPs elected to Queen’s Park. At the same time Wynne as premier will be a powerful role model for young women and those in the LGBT community.
Wynne’s election shows Ontario voters want a party that encourages investment in education. The Liberal campaign promised over the next 3 years to invest $ 750 million dollars in education, encouraging new technologies while supporting full day kindergarten. They also want to help school boards deal with budget shortfalls and declining enrolment. They have promised $ 1.25 billion over the next 3 years for infrastructure spending for Ontario schools.
The money promised by the Liberals for education is important but it will not be enough to address the backlog in repairs needed for school boards across Ontario. The TDSB alone needs more than $ 3.2 billion in repairs to make schools safe for our children. The Liberal majority gives us an opportunity to change how the government funds schools and school boards.
At present the provincial government levies an Education Development Charge (EDC) on any new development in Ontario. The developer is charged for every new residential unit sold. Under current legislation, EDCs cannot be used by school boards to fund capital repairs.
A TDSB, Financial Facts and Expenditure Trends report states,“City of Toronto planning information indicates that there are applications for an additional 277,000 new residential units in 2014. Based in the current TCDSB’s EDC rate, if the TDSB was treated equally it is estimated that this projected growth would generate nearly $300 million of much needed revenue to meet the capital needs of the board.”
Tell the Liberals that school boards need a new funding formula to address aging schools. Join concerned parents and community members at SaveourSchools.ca
Our schools need investment and Wynne’s election shows that Ontario voters agree we need to invest in our future. We should be proud as a community that elected a premier with a positive vision. Let's hope we can do the same when electing the city's mayor this fall.